Unplanned Pilgrimage by Mary Ellen Talley

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Unplanned Pilgrimage
by Mary Ellen Talley

When the parking lot attendant
says the Cliffs of Moher
are hiding and a visit
might be a pea soup
waste of euros,
we stop nearby to view
St. Brigid’s Holy Well
where Virgin Mary statues
in front of falling water
are laden with petitions,
rosary necklaces,
and strands of Mardi Gras beads.

Time for another stop,
off to Ennistymon
to visit Salmon Bookshop
on Parliament Street
where brimming rooms of poetry,
fairy garden out back,
sprawling dog Zeke,
and a friendly expat reside.
We would’ve stayed for days
to catch music and a brew come evening
but we left to drive
across the Burren landscape before dark.

Green with envy of myself
for travels past
I hear from Zeke’s expat owner
of her Covid stroll — she and Zeke
along the Cliffs of Moher,
they lone visitors on a day so clear
Galway Bay and Aran Islands
each bright visage in the distance.
She wouldn’t venture to the Cliffs
for years, but now,
with all the tourists gone, she can
reclaim the Cliff walk to herself.

PHOTO: St. Brigid’s Holy Well, Kildare, Ireland by megalithireland.com.

NOTE: For more about St. Brigid’s Holy Well, visit megalithireland.com.

pic of ME with fuschias copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have appeared widely in publications including Raven Chronicles,  Gyroscope, Flatbush Review, and Banshee, as well as in several poetry anthologies. Her poems have received two Pushcart nominations. A chapbook, Postcards from the Lilac City, was published by Finishing Line Press in October 2020. She spent three weeks in Ireland in 2018 and yearns to return.

Under the Influence by Andrena Zawinski


Under the Influence
(A poetic after the cellist on Place des Vosges)
by Andrena Zawinski

Here. Take this photograph. It is Paris.

There. There is a woman turning sheets
of paged music. Look. She’s getting ready,
her legs hugging the cello bottom,
fingers poised at the polished sleek of its neck.
Listen. A wheeze and wail of gendarmes
are racing the square for some spy
movie chase scene you’ll see.

Go away now—through that door behind her.
It is the house of Hugo. Touch that desk there
autographed for charity, Picasso and Stein
side-by-side. Come back now. Come here.
She’s about to pull in dusk air on strings.

Take a seat at the curbstone. Rummage
through your bag—through de Gaulle stamps,
artificial tears, baume pour les lèvres.
Make notes on the post-it pad. Give her a name.
Call her Renee of Vivien. Take her photograph.

Wander into the droopy-eyed flash. Wonder
if she composes under the influence
of red wine, French rain, shadow light
some herstoriography of the real.

But don’t insult her with the loose change
of your vacation franc. Give her
what she wants, an audience. There is no
subscription fee. The series runs each night.
Performances will not be sold out.

Take this photograph. It is modern art,
under the influence
of a dialectic whose boundaries
are yet to be determined.

SOURCE: “Under the Influence” first appeared in Her Mark Calendar from Chicago’s Woman Made Gallery and appears in the author’s collection Traveling in Reflected Light.

PHOTO: Place des Vosges, Paris, France. Photo by beanitwoman.


NOTE: Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris, France. Located in Le Marais district, it straddles the dividing line between the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Originally known as Place Royale, Place des Vosges was built by Henri IV from 1605 to 1612. A true square (140 meters × 140 meters), it embodied one of the first European programs of royal city planning .

PHOTO: Aerial view of Place des Vosges, Paris, France. Photo by Des Racines et des Ailes.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Wherever I have traveled, I have loved the street performers, especially those like the woman at the cello in this poem, so very passionate and skilled. Everything became part of her outdoor concert, from police sirens to loose change to nearby tourist spots, but with her center stage on the sidewalk caring only to be heard.

PHOTO: Street performer cellist. Photo by Jan Plywacz.

zawinski3ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrena Zawinski’s poetry has received numerous awards for lyricism, form, spirituality, and social concern, several of them Pushcart Prize nominations. Her latest book is Landings from Kelsay Books; others are Something About from Blue Light Press (a PEN Oakland Award) and Traveling in Reflected Light from Pig Iron Press (a Kenneth Patchen Prize), along with several chapbooks. Her poetry has previously appeared on Poetry and Places. 

Crescit Eundo by Gary Glauber


Crescit Eundo
by Gary Glauber

New Mexico caressed me
under thin covers,
lured me with temperate clime
and spicy cuisine, with tales
of mystical angel visits and
prettily crafted wares.
Enchantment was the first kiss.
I embraced her carefully,
red sun on field of yellow,
aware of what some consider
sacred and fickle behavior,
back to suitors from another realm,
Spaniards seeking conquests,
additional notches on a long belt
that circled a smaller world.
I slip away, careful not to burn,
knowing I will ever crave
her native treasures,
her dark hair, high cheekbones,
and ritual sweetness,
the tantalizing spaces
on blanket of sky.
Not knowing myself then
I was doomed to travel,
a lover always lost.

PHOTOGRAPH: Echo Amphitheater, Carson National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Zack Smith on Unsplash


NOTE: The poem’s title, “Crescit Eundo,” is the motto of the State of New Mexico. Translated from Latin, it means “It grows as it goes.” Its source in the epic poem “De Rerum Natura(“On the Nature of Things”) by first-century B.C. Latin poet Lucretius. Here, it refers to a thunderbolt increasing in strength as it moves across the sky, a symbol of dynamic progress. New Mexico adopted the motto in 1913, a year after it achieved statehood.

IMAGE: The Great Seal of the State of New Mexico. When adopted in 1912, the official act of the legislature read: The coat of arms of the state shall be the Mexican eagle grasping a serpent in its beak, the cactus in its talons, shielded by the American eagle with outspread wings, and grasping arrows in its talons; the date 1912 under the eagles and, on a scroll, the motto: “Crescit Eundo.” 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I first visited New Mexico in October of 1989, and have been enchanted by the state ever since — the art, the culture, the ghost stories, and more.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Glauber is a widely published poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. He champions the underdog while negotiating life’s absurdities. He has four collections, Small Consolations (Aldrich Press), Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), Rocky Landscape with Vagrants (Cyberwit), and most recently, A Careful Contrition (Shanti Arts Publishing); and two chapbooks, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press) and The Covalence of Equanimity (SurVision Books), a winner of the 2019 James Tate International Poetry Prize. A new collection will be forthcoming soon from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author with two souvenirs from New Mexico.

Walking Along the Music City Walk of Fame by Linda Imbler


Walking Along the Music City Walk of Fame
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.
by Linda Imbler

The pale shy away from the sun,
but this garden of stone
is worthy of a venture out under Mr. Sol.

Here lay the names,
a judicious fare of music greats:
Songwriters, singers, guitarists.
There’s no questionable bigotry laid here.
All genres of music represented
by those who have a connection
to this musical land.

An international hand
planted this piercing granite,
replete with buggy epitaphs,
offering godlike flattery,

Loretta Lynn to Jack White.
Peter Frampton to Keith Urbam.
Hendrix to Garth.
Bobby Hebb (“Sunny”) to Ernest Tubb.

A stroll along this sidewalk
presents one helpful campaign
toward human solidarity.
A possible answer to the ills of the world,
all differences laid aside on the music stage.

PHOTO: Music City Walk of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Adinda Uneputty.

dolly parton star

NOTE: The Music City Walk of Fame in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, honors significant contributors to Nashville’s musical heritage as well as significant achievements in the music industry. Each honoree is commemorated with a large stainless steel and terrazzo star embedded in the sidewalk in Walk of Fame Park between the Country Music Hall of Fame, Bridgestone Arena, and Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The walk was established in 2006 by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Gibson Guitars is a founding sponsor. Honorees are inducted twice annually, in the spring and fall.

PHOTO: Dolly Parton star on the Music City Walk of Fame. Photo taken by Christy Frink on the day of Parton’s induction (Nov. 8, 2009).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: From March 30 through April 7, 2019, I traveled by bus with Diamond Tours. We, calling ourselves The Silver Striders,  traveled through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee, stopping at various places along the way.  We spent  four days in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. This poems was previously published in my poetry collection titled Bus Lights, Travel Sights.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Imbler’s poetry collections include five published paperbacks: Big Questions, Little Sleep; Lost and Found; Red Is The Sunrise; and Bus Lights, Travel Sights. Soma Publishing has released her three e-book collections, The Sea’s Secret SongPairings (a hybrid of short fiction and poetry), and That Fifth Element. Examples of Linda’s poetry and a listing of publications can be found at lindaspoetryblog.blogspot.com. In addition to writing, she helps her husband, a Luthier, build acoustic guitars in Wichita, Kansas, U.S.A.

Clochán an Aifir by Robert Lima


Clochán an Aifir
by Robert Lima

Up north, abiding by the Irish-Scottish Sea of Moyle
on long-stretched land that’s curved along a cove,
the tides pay homage to huge basaltic stones on land
that form a roadway from the cliffs into the sea,
their multi-side hexagons and other varied shapes,
having a dark sheen, brilliant with the water’s wash.

Ancient surges of a violent earth caused craggy fissures,
thrusting giant basalt columns which became a causeway
of conjoined stones that, ponderous, step to and from the sea.

Their hand-hewn look has given rise to mythic lore that one,
the Finnian giant Finn Mac Cool, shaped the unique blocks
to step across the straits between his land and that of Scots.

On climbing to twelve meters height, perhaps the giant’s size,
I see the shores of Scotland, beheld in yore by Mac Cumhaill,
and to the north, the islands of the Hebrides he never reached
because the Giant’s Causeway falls away to such a depth of sea
that even one of such heroic size as he could not surmount.
The black basaltic columns ever stand a monument to Finn.

PHOTO: The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Photo by A. Quinn.


map of NI

NOTE: The Giant’s Causeway (Clochán an Aifir) is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides.The tallest are about 39-feet high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 92-feet thick in places. The columns were formed by the rapid cooling of lava from an underwater volcano upon contact with the sea, or as some may say created by the legendary mythical Irish Giant Finn MacCool. In some tales, the giant is 54-feet tall and he used the Causeway as stepping stones to the Scottish Coast.

PHOTO: The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Photo by Paul Hampshire.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In Northern Ireland, during the summer of 2003, we spent a full day at the Giant’s Causeway—so-called because folk tradition has it that the giant Finn MacCool made the amazing colonnade of basaltic stones. In the photo taken by my wife, I’m atop the 39-foot height of the causeway. There are 40,000 of these stones—mostly hexagonal—along the large expanse that is a UNESCO site.

PHOTO: The author atop the high point of the Causeway. Photo by Sally M. Lima.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Lima is a Cuban-born award-winning poet, and an internationally recognized critic, bibliographer, playwright, and translator. As a Greenwich Village poet during the 1960s, he read at coffeehouses and other venues, co-edited Seventh Street: Poems of Les Deux Megots, introduced by Denise Levertov, and the second series of Judson Review. His 16 poetry collections include Tracking the Minotaur, The Rites of Stone, Celestials, Elementals, SelfSardinia/SardegnaIkons of the Past. Poetry of the Hispanic Americas and Writers on My Watch, and Odyssey (2021). Over 600 of his poems have appeared in print in the U.S. and abroad. Eleven of his poems have just appeared in Greek translation in Noima Magazine. Among his numerous critical studies are works on García Lorca, Valle-Inclán, Borges, Surrealism, folklore, dramatic literature, and translations of plays and poetry. He was invited and read his poetry for the archives at the Hispanic Division of The Library of Congress.

Hozho by Robert Coats


by Robert Coats

“The Navaho word hozho, translated into English
as ‘beauty,’ also means harmony, wholeness, goodness.”
—J. Ruth Gendler
Notes on the Need for Beauty

Hiking in the Grand Canyon
down Permian dunes
of the Coconino Sandstone,
red rubble of the Supai Group.
It’s a good place for restoring one to hozho,
and I’m thinking about the kid from New York.

We drove past him yesterday, headed east.
In his right hand he lugged a boombox
over his left shoulder he’d slung a pack and jacket
and his baseball cap was turned backwards.
Returning in the afternoon
we passed him again, noting his progress:
five miles in four hours under the desert sun.

At park headquarters, we saw his photo
on a missing person flyer,
told a Ranger where we’d passed him.
He said they were searching hard—
his parents had found a suicide note.

As I hike deeper into the canyon
I imagine him hurling himself
off the Kaibab cliffs.

Or sitting beneath a juniper
watching clouds build over the North Rim,
the swoop and glide of ravens.

EPILOGUE: I checked back later with the Ranger, and learned that the boy was found and returned to his parents.

PHOTO:  Grand Canyon, April 1995. Photo by Robert Coats. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Coats has been writing poetry for more than 40 years. Aside from four poems previously published by Poetry and Places, his poems have appeared on the Canary Website, in Orion, Zone 3, Windfall, Song of the San Joaquin, in two anthologies (Fresh Water: Poems from the Rivers, Lakes and Streams and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California), in the hand-printed and bound book Gathering Black Walnuts from Cedar Fence Press, and in his book The Harsh Green World, published by Sugartown Publishing.  He is a Research Hydrologist with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Hozho is said to be the most important word in the Navajo (Diné) language and is loosely translated as peace, balance, beauty and harmony with nature, oneself, and others. To be “in Hozho” is to be at one with and a part of the world around you (from Wikipedia.org). To hear the pronunciation, visit this link.

News Flash by Joan McNerney

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News Flash
by Joan McNerney

Mickey Mouse was arrested
9/4/14 in Times Square.
He was posing with a tourist
and asked for money.*

How dare Forty-Second Street
be defiled by such an unsavory
character! Donald Duck was
not available for comment.

Minnie Mouse escaped capture by
hiding behind a large sanitation
vehicle. She was visibly shaken.
Humpty Dumpty tried to soothe her.

The Mayor of New York has had
enough of these high jinxes.
Cartoon characters may not
roam our streets unchecked.

All must be licensed and be
registered. Who knows what
criminal and possible terrorist
activity Frosty might provoke?

*This text is from an actual news item. Mickey was released after appearing in court. 

PHOTO: Costumed characters waiting to pose for photos. Times Square, New York City (Sept. 6, 2021). Photo by Jim Griffin.

times square hulk

NOTE: This article from New York magazine provides information about costumed characters arrested in Times Square.  This article from the New York Times offers insights into the lives of the people under the costumes.

Photo by Jeffrey Zeldman (4/21/2018).

mickey and minnie

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I saw this news article, I practically doubled over with laughter.  Before the virus, the city tried to change infamous Times Square to a family friendly zone.  Disney films were shown there.  Soon creative “street people” began dressing up as cartoon characters mostly to the delight of both tourists and New Yorkers.

Photo by Garden Beth (5/29/2010).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines, such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days, as well as in four Bright Hills Press anthologies, several editions of the  Poppy Road Review, and numerous Spectrum Publications.  Her latest title, The Muse In Miniatureis available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net. She has four Best of the Net nominations.

El Porto, Twilight by Jonathan Yungkans


El Porto, Twilight
by Jonathan Yungkans

Where the Pacific blends into a Spanish-Portuguese marketing conceit,
it mirrors my own lack of logic, a hemorrhage tarnishing quiet. The wind
smells of gore. The sea dusks. It stumbles cross currents, bleeding out
and collapsing. The unseen moon heaves it up. Call me Lazarus for all
the deadness I feel, watching the tide barely whisper and eavesdropping,
for all intent and purpose, wanting to feel part of a whole, of something
not alien. Instead, I stand out like bleached Cal-Spanish walls from sand.
The firmness underfoot of concrete has nothing of the shore’s plasticity,
no give and take—just the cold fact of property, hard cash of mortgages,
while I ply in and out, somewhere between love of the sea and drowning.

What was it about King Minos of Crete, the inventor Daedalus and beasts?
Minos had Daedalus design an open-air dance floor for Arachne. I keep
thinking of spider webs, when she proved a better seamstress than Athena.
and it’s never good to piss off the gods. Daedalus fabricated a wooden cow
for Arachne’s mom Pasiphae to clamber inside, let a white bull fuck her.
That make Daedalus a porn king, or was he just really good at sex toys?
Pasiphae gave birth to the minotaur. We know what happened from there—
the labyrinth, the wings, Icarus plummeting into the sea. Daedalus flew
to Sicily. Minos charged after him. The king of Sicily, all smiles to Minos,
talked him into a steam bath to unwind. The king’s daughters boiled him
lobster red and dead—a delicacy fit for cosa nostra, the Honored Society.

Why was that horse head in The Godfather? Offer you couldn’t refuse?
Coppola switched the fake head in rehearsals for a real one. Those screams
you hear on film are real. The camera was rolling. The scene was an offer
the actor couldn’t refuse. I first surmised the horses’ heads / Were heading
toward Eternity. Death stopped for Emily Dickinson, an offer she couldn’t
refuse as she watched black horse heads toss, their clouds of Apocalypse
breath. Bloodstained sheets on the stage bed, gore on the actor. Since then
—tis centuries—and yet / Feels shorter than the day film rolled, the offer
spread across a mattress, tongue lolling, eyes glazed, matted hair and mane.
How long since a swelling on the ground? The horse’s name—Khartoum.

When black tar balls littered sand, they seemed scabs, not congealed oil—
stigmata, not something from a Chevron tanker or a cross of petroleum
to drag onshore and bear. They glommed onto shoes and feet, a baptism
not of fire but internal combustion—of asphalt, rubber and drive, drive
until the wheels fall off your wallet. The El Segundo Edison plant rose
like a multi-funneled steamship, the Great Eastern. The ship’s five stacks
grew in my consciousness, a lost relation. I barely said a word, instead
paid attention to churning inside myself, mirrored in breaking whitecaps,
until I ran out of change or the sky darkened into resignation. The moon
showed itself jealous, pulled the waves back as it sent me on my way.

How a wrecking ball banged two years, every day like Beethoven’s Fifth,
before the door plied in and out. You could almost tell time by its swing.
Bobbies on bicycles, two by two / Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben.
My mom loved that song before her mind fell apart, clang    clang    clang,
like the church bell’s peal before the witches appear, Berlioz’s Fantastique,
and the Dies Irae rides in on a tuba, its player astride a skeleton horse
as it trots into a graveyard. A bell that was an iron plate, then another,
between sea and scrap yard. Me, feeling my way like water into myself,
pushing sand between rocks piled to keep something in place—the ocean?
the waterfront? The Edison plant stays beached. The tide barely whispers.

A slightly different version of this poem was previously published in the inaugural issue of Gleam: A Journal of the Cadralor (Fall 2020).

PHOTO: El Porto Beach, Southern California. El Porto is home to a private corporate electricity-producing facility for Edison that uses natural gas. (Photo by  californiabeaches.com)

el porto 2

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: El Porto is a small beachfront community and surf spot in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, California, located between Manhattan Beach and El Segundo. My parents cruised past it going to or from Los Angeles International Airport. Watching Vista Del Mar’s yellow street lamps through coastal fog from the back seat of their car became an indelible memory. So did the Edison power plant in El Segundo, at the northern end of El Porto, which towered over both beach and road and reminded me of the mammoth 19th century iron steamship, SS Great Eastern. Once I got my driver’s license, I spent many afternoons and early evenings at El Porto, watching the waves and honestly wondering what I’d eventually do with my life, and the place became a good location to time-out my brain from all the thoughts racing through it. I’d tried writing about El Porto, off and on, over 30 years. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the poetic form of the cadralor that I was able to get something fairly close to right.

PHOTO: El Porto Beach, Southern California. (Photo by californiabeaches.com.)

AUTHOR’S NOTES ABOUT THE FORM: The cadralor was conceived jointly by poets Christopher Cadre, Lori Howe and Scott Ferry in August 2020. Per the editor’s notes in Gleam: A Journal of the Cadralor, the form “consists of five short, unrelated, highly-visual stanzas. The fifth stanza acts as the crucible, illuminating the gleaming thread that runs through all the stanzas and bringing them together into a love poem. By ‘love poem,’ we mean that the fifth stanzic image answers the question: ‘For what do you yearn?’” Within these guidelines, the cadralor can be decidedly non-linear, since an overt narrative through-line is discouraged; each stanza, technically, is meant to stand as an independent poem. The form led me to what poets Charles Olson and Robert Duncan termed field construction, with associative and tangential connections given their due. The overall process guided me toward a literary form of progressive tonality between sections—the end of one stanza modulates into the beginning of the next. (Link to Gleam notes on the cadralor.)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach, while working as an in-home health-care provider. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti,  West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach Publishing.

Olive Oil by Rafaella Del Bourgo


Olive Oil
(for my Sephardic grandmother)
by Rafaella Del Bourgo

I remember eyes like sapphires,
dark moles in the folds of her neck,
her bosom, skillfully imprisoned in linen.

Olive oil must be deep green and pungent
to evoke other memories,
sautéed fava beans, roasted chicken,
rice blushing with tomato and raisins plump with steam.
Cream puffs for dessert,
flour caught in her diamond ring.

We were fed advice:
          Never buy a used book; people are dirty.
          Those crab apples are sour;
          your mouth will pucker up and stay that way, forever.
          No one will want you.
          We don’t take the bus; we’ll never have to, God willing,
          we take cabs.
          Kosher meat is always best; don’t try to fool me with that traife
          from Albertson’s.

In her birthplace, Massaua, Eritrea,
where she could hear lions cry outside the compound walls,
she attended the only school for girls; nuns taught women’s work.
On Shabbos, her father, a colonel in the Italian army,
brought in hungry Jews to feed.
Her mother emptied the larder, silently served them.

Before Grandmother’s blood broke,
the betrothal was sealed by mail;
the family with its too many girls lacked dowry
and who but a cousin would have her?
Wrapped like a gift against the ocean’s cold,
she was shipped to Shanghai,
hand-written recipes in her trunk.
Among the rickshaws on the dock,
a stranger, my grandfather, elegant and contained, in a downpour.


After twenty years and two boys,
before Mao marched and the Last Emperor fell,
Grandfather got the family and its fortune out,
settled into the house on Tiger Tail Road in Brentwood,
comfortable among the wealthy and the famous.

She ruled her house with a wave of her hand
and commands in Ladino. She knitted and sewed,
taught the proper way to behave.
          Don’t be familiar with the maid;
          she’s robbing us blind.
          It’s not ladylike to run.
          Don’t wear that frou-frou blouse;
          dress well and you, too, will marry a Del Bourgo.
          Keep the line pure.

In her curio cabinet, animals of yellowed ivory, amber and jade:
a small herd of horses, three monkeys, a Pekinese.
Dressed up in dotted swiss,
I was allowed to play with them, but carefully,
behind the striped silk couch with dragon’s feet.
          When I go, all these will be yours.

But, after Grandfather died,
the antiques buyer with the mustache arrived.
Month by month, the creatures were sold
as I secretly wept in one room, Grandmother in another.

I wear her earrings of platinum and pearls,
make filling for bourekas the old way:
stir spinach and onions, ground meat and garlic in sizzling olive oil.
A knob of hard candy between my teeth,
I sip bitter tea from her gold rimmed cup,
close my eyes, lean against the kitchen counter,
listen for the sound
of the lions’ cry.

PHOTO:  Highlands between Asmara and Massawa, Eritrea, Africa. Photo by David Mark.


eritrea massawa

NOTE: Eritrea is a country in the Horn of Africa region of Eastern Africa,  bordered by Ethiopia in the south, Sudan in the west, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea. The nation has a total area of 45,406 square miles. Lions are said to inhabit the mountains of the Gash-Barka Region.  Massawa is a port city located on the Red Sea.  Massawa was the capital of the Italian Colony of Eritrea until the seat of the colonial government was moved to Asmara in 1897. Massawa has an average temperature of 86°F, one of the highest in the world.

PHOTO: Railway between  Asmara and Massawa, Eritrea. Photo by VOC.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My father’s family are Sephardic Jews. His mother and father were second cousins, betrothed by mail when they were children. She was born and raised in Massua, Eritrea. His family fled Turkey by ship which docked temporarily in New York, where his pregnant mother got off to have him. So, he was an American citizen. Then, the family continued on to Japan where there were other family members. When my grandmother was 18 and he was around 20, her family put her on a ship to Shanghai, China, where my grandfather, a stranger, met her. They married and raised two boys, including my father.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing has appeared in journals such as Nimrod, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, The Adroit Journal, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Caveat Lector, Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, Spillwayand The Bitter Oleander. She has won many awards, including the Lullwater Prize for Poetry in 2003, and in 2006 the Helen Pappas Prize in Poetry and the New River Poets Award. In 2007, 2008, and 2013, she won first place in the Maggi Meyer Poetry Competition. The League of Minnesota Poets awarded her first place in 2009.  In 2010, she won the Alan Ginsberg Poetry Award and the Grandmother Earth Poetry Prize. She was awarded the Paumanok Prize for Poetry in 2012, and then won first place in the 2013 Northern Colorado Writers’ Poetry Contest. Finally, she won the Mudfish Poetry Prize for 2017. Her collection I Am Not Kissing You  was published by Small Poetry Press in 2003, and her chapbook, Inexplicable Business: Poems Domestic and Wildwas published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press. In 2012, she was one of 10 poets included in the anthology Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish IdentityShe has traveled the world and lived in Tasmania and Hawaii.  She recently retired from teaching college-level English classes, and resides in Berkeley, California, with her husband.

Gondola Ride by Margaret Duda

Night canal lights house gondola italy painting

Gondola Ride
by Margaret Duda

The pointed black prow glides over reflective waterways,
as the gondolier pilots us past lanterns in the dark lagoons.
Your arm encircles my shoulders, your body leans into mine,
and the oarsman sings of stars in the Venetian night.
Inside towering medieval buildings rising on either side,
light escapes from narrow windows, allowing us to peer inside.
White-haired couples hold hands, young adults kiss and dance,
and children laugh as they dash through the moments of life.
The paddle stops. We drift, gazing wide-eyed into the future,
realizing they are all ours, all the generations
we inaugurated on our forty-four-year wedded journey.
We beam at each other, hearts filled with wonder and gratitude
until the gondolier instructs me to debark alone at the next stop.
My grief and anguish is what I will now pay for our unfailing love,
until the day the gondolier returns for me, and you reach out your hand.
I will say “Yes” again, step gingerly in, settle close to your body
and listen to the splash of the oar as the gondolier steers us both toward home.

IMAGE: Painting of Venice, Italy, found at wallpapersafari.com.


venice italy

NOTE: Venice is a city in northeastern Italy built on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay lying between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Although the city faces challenges, including an excessive number of tourists and problems caused by pollution, tide peaks, and cruise ships sailing too close to buildings, Venice remains a popular tourist destination. A major cultural center, Venice has been ranked many times as the most beautiful city in the world and has been described as Europe’s most romantic city.

PHOTO: Venice, Italy, with Basilica Santa Maria della Salute at right background. Photo by Keagan Badenhorst.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem I wrote to my husband on what we knew would be our last anniversary, as he had pancreatic cancer and only months to live. Years before, the evening gondola ride in Venice had been so romantic that I knew the poem had to be about that. For the evening, one of my sons created a “gondola” with chairs, blankets, and Christmas tree lights. My son helped us into the “boat,” and I read my husband the poem. Then my son sprinkled us lightly with water as he rowed and sang to us in Italian. When we arrived at “our destination,” he helped us out of our magic gondola and played soft music so that we could try to dance a bit as he videotaped us. My husband kept the poem in his nightstand until he died. He said he would be waiting for me. Our last anniversary was an incredibly romantic evening and one that I still treasure 16 years later at the age of 80. 

PHOTO: Venice, Italy, Grand Canal. Photo by David Mark.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  A professional author, photographer, and jewelry designer, Margaret Duda has had her work published in The Kansas Quarterly, the Michigan Quarterly Review, Crosscurrents, The South Carolina Review, The Green River Review, The University Review, Fine Arts Discovery, The Green River Review, Venture, and Silver Birch Press. One of her short stories made the distinctive list of Best American Short Stories. She also had a play produced in Michigan, has had several books of nonfiction published, including Four Centuries of Silver and Traditional Chinese Toggles: Counterweights and Charmsand took travel photographs for the New York Times for 10 years. She lives in Pennsylvania, and is working on the final draft of an immigrant family saga novel set in a steel mill town from 1910 to 1920. She is also writing poetry to find a shred of sanity during this pandemic and hopes to write enough for a chapbook by the end of the year.